Sunday, January 19, 2020

BEARING FRUIT IN 2020: 1 Timothy 2:1-8 - “The Discipline Of Committing Ourselves To Public Prayer”

We now come to consider prayer- particularly public prayer, another foundational discipline for the Christian life. 
This is where wefind ourselves as we consider  vital spiritual disciplines for the church at the beginning of 2020:

1. Disciplining ourselves for the purpose of godliness

2. The discipline of hearing God’s Word regularly
3. The discipline of  Public Prayer
4. The discipline of Worship.

Public prayer is the habitual discipline whereby the church comes together in great numbers (whatever great means for any given church)  to ask, seek and knock and petition the Lord for matters concerning His kingdom. 

This is important! Our common welfare lies in corporately seeking first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33). The Bible seldom speaks in reference to the single person. The Bible speaks most often to us in a corporate context – YOU, plural!  Our individualistic society misses that. The emphasis on ‘me’, ‘bless me’,   kills the spirit of public prayer and misses out on corporate blessings, such as having a well ordered society. I am afraid that the devil has led many Christians into thinking that the corporate prayer meeting of the church is  optional – and even worse;  many  think it’s legalism. It’s nothing of the kind! Public prayer to the God who created us is life giving. It leads to healing. It leads to the reversal of the rot  and decay of  our society…

And so, we should not be surprised  to learn that the society  or churches  where many pray together to  God, where many seek God  together for  blessing and favour, are societies  where all people (even non-believers)  flourish. The history of Christian revivals, where public prayer was paramount, proves that.  The more the Christian faith takes hold of a nation, the better off that nation will be.
In a recent  article by Jonathon van Maren[1]  (4th November 2019) entitled,  “Atheists sound the alarm: Decline of Christianity is seriously hurting society”, he writes:  But as Christianity fades further and further into our civilization’s rear-view mirror, many intelligent atheists are beginning to realize that the Enlightenment may have only achieved success because it wielded influence on a Christian culture.  (e.g. Christianity enables tolerance). In a truly secular society, in which men and women live their lives beneath empty heavens and expect to be recycled rather than resurrected, there is no solid moral foundation for good and evil.  Anti-theists like Christopher Hitchens mocked and reviled the idea that mankind needed God to know right from wrong, but scarcely two generations into our Great Secularization, and we no longer even know male from female. The article also notes that  Richard Dawkins has now come out and repudiated his previous belief that Christianity should be banished from society …. In fact, he told ‘The Times’, that  ending religion—once his fervent goal—would be a terrible idea, because it would “give people a license to do really bad things.” Despite the fact that Dawkins has long argued that the very idea of the God of the Bible being necessary as a basis for morality is both ridiculous and offensive, he appears to be backtracking. He said,  “People may feel free to do bad things because they feel God is no longer watching them,”  citing the example of security cameras as a deterrent to shoplifting.

Today, we are reminded from our text that corporate prayer is no side issue in the church. It ought to be a core activity in the life of the Christian church. Praying churches have far reaching   influence in this world. So, whatever we fail to   do as a church, we cannot fail in public prayer.  Let’s follow the logic of Scripture once again  as we trust that the Holy Spirit would  press this important spiritual discipline upon our hearts and consciences as we consider the  first 8 verses of 1 Timothy 2 .

(i) “First of all…” here means, as a matter of first priority, indicating that prayer is no secondary or arbitrary  activity  of the church.

(ii) The little word “then” connects Paul’s thoughts with the preceding context in 1:18–20 and gives us a reason why this kind of prayer is significant. In 1:18  Paul exhorted Timothy to "wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience"[2].  He reminds Timothy that by rejecting faith and a good conscience, one may run the risk of making shipwreck of one’s faith. This had been the sad case of men like Hymenaeus and Alexander[3] (1:20)[4].  Earlier  in 1:3 we see that the church at Ephesus  was  being undermined  by people who were teaching  a different doctrine, and therefore Paul  exhorted Timothy that  he needed  to hold  the church  to the  true gospel.  Clearly, the church is always at war. She must constantly fight for her integrity and for the integrity of her society. Societal collapse happens when truth collapses. The church with the Bible in her hand is the truth custodian. It is against this background  that Paul reminds  Timothy   concerning the importance of  prayer. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the church which Timothy pastored, reveals that prayer is a significant tool  in this spiritual battle  [Eph. 6: 10-20].

(iii) I urge[5]    indicating  that  this is a priority.  Paul urges  Timothy that  he  must lead the church  in public  prayer  for  all kinds of  people.

(iv) Note  the extent of this prayer:“pray for all people…"  (2:1)… Paul is saying to these Christians,  “put your requests, or supplications forward to God for all kinds of people;  pray for  all kinds of people; intercede for all kinds of people, and where applicable  give thanks  for all kinds of  people,  even  for the government under which you  live.  This is a remarkable exhortation, given the fact that Christians lived under precarious circumstances in the Roman world.

(v) “for kings and all those who  are in high positions…“  In this regard, the wise words of Bishop John Charles Ryle come to mind: “It is easy to criticise and find fault with the conduct of kings, and write furious articles against them in newspapers, or make violent speeches about them on platforms. Any fool can rip and rend a costly garment, but not every man can cut out and make one. To expect perfection in kings, prime ministers, or rulers of any kind, is senseless and unreasonable. We should exhibit more wisdom if we prayed for them more, and criticised less” [6].

(vi) “… that we may lead a peaceful and a quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Corporate prayer is intended to have far reaching influence.  One of the great  goals of  our corporate prayer is seen here.  By  our corporate prayer we ask God  to enter into the hearts and minds  of all kinds of people in our society, especially  kings and all those who are in high positions,  who potentially have so much power  to disrupt our lives  by causing us not to live  in peace and in quiet and with dignity. Part of our public prayer is therefore to pray for our country, our politicians and our churches so that  we may life in peace and quiet and with dignity. This is the essential foundation for the spread of the gospel. Christians desire an ordered society for the sake of all its citizens, but especially because then we can fulfil our God-given responsibilities without hindrance. Jeremiah the prophet had an understanding of this  kind of prayer when he wrote  to the Jews in Babylonia: “Seek the welfare of  the city where I have sent you in exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find welfare.” (Jer. 29:7)  Corporately praying  to God for this city meant  welfare  for the Jews  and for all.  Queen Esther and Daniel are  excellent examples of  those  through whom God worked mightily for the welfare of the Jews. Esther asked for corporate prayer (Esther 4:16). Daniel was a man of prayer and he was prayed for.

(vii) And then Paul goes even bigger  and asks  the church  to pray for, “All people, everywhere! “God, our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”(2:4). What are we to understand here? Are we to literally expect all people on earth to be saved as a result of our prayer?   As desirable as we may find this thought, it is not  likely that  this was what Paul had in mind  when he wrote this.  What Paul had in mind  was based  on  an Old Testament hope, namely  that  one day “the earth would be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea”[7], namely  that all the nations  would be united  in the worship of the One True God.  It is thus not so much every person that is in mind here (although we should always work and pray as if everyone  could be saved), but the big  thought here is that  all kinds of people  from all kinds of nations  are envisaged here. Is this not what we are seeing in the book of Revelation 5:9;7:9? People  gathered before the throne in heaven,  from every tribe and language  and people and nation? Is this not what we are publicly praying for every Sunday night?

This sort of prayer  underlies  effective  biblical evangelism of our  community.  Here Paul encourages  Timothy to lead the church in prayer in the expectation that  all kinds of people would come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Now here is something to chew on.  If  such prayer is good and  pleasing to God  then we can  confidently say that public prayer is a public means of grace. That means that we can expect that God will answer such prayers, because they are good and pleasing to Him. They are in accordance with God’s goals that the whole world  should hear His Word.   And  so, Paul  was saying to Timothy,

 (viii) “For there is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.“ (Vv.5 &6) The reason why we are praying for the whole world is because of these  words. There is not one God for the Muslims, and many gods for the Hindus. NO! Why should we pray that people from every tribe, tongue and nation should be saved? Because there is only  one  true God-only ONE Mediator. There is only one  true Saviour. He  alone is the one hope of all humanity, and  if   He is  the only  hope, then it follows  that if we don't pray for the world, what hope does the world have?  And if this is God’s  desire for the world,  then this must move us  as Christians to pray for all kinds of people. And we must expect for  God to hear and answer this  prayer.

(ix) For  this I was appointed as a preacher and an apostle ( I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the gentiles in faith and truth .”   Paul  includes himself in the mission of God.  He tells us here that God's desire for the world is what propelled him into the ministry. And he is the apostle who always asked the churches everywhere that they might corporately pray for him, for example 2 Corinthians  1:10,11. God  richly answered the churches prayer!

The extent, the scope, the possibilities unleashed by the discipline of corporate prayer ought to excite us. Will you not discipline yourself, to join the prayer chorus of this church as we start  this year in corporate prayer every night of this coming week?  

[2] See also 1:5
[3] Alexander is also mentioned in 2  Tim 4:14
[4] throughout this epistle,  Paul talks about those  who  have  wandered away  from the faith see also 1:6;  6:10,21
[5] Gr. parakaleo – to exhort  see also   1:3
[6] J.C. Ryle:  The Upper Room ,  Chapter 21  “For Kings”, p.264
[7]  Num,.  14:21; Ps 57:5,11; 72:19; Isa 11:9; Hab. 2:14

Sunday, January 12, 2020

BEARING FRUIT IN 2020 : 1 Timothy 4:13 - “The Discipline of Hearing The Word Of God Regularly”

The four Sunday mornings of January 2020 have been set aside to remind ourselves concerning a number of important spiritual disciplines for the Christian life. Reminders are important. The apostle Peter wrote to the church, “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder…” [2 Pet.1:12,13]. 

The basic Christian disciplines we intend to remind ourselves anew at this time are:

1. Disciplining ourselves for the purpose of Godliness (last week)
2. The discipline of hearing God’s Word regularly
3. The discipline of Prayer
4. The discipline of Worship.

Today, we shall consider the spiritual discipline of regularly hearing and obeying the message of the Bible, the Word of God. The Bible contains sixty-six individual books, written on three continents, in three different languages, over a period of approximately 1500 years, by more than 40 authors who came from many walks of life. In all this, the Bible is a unified message, concerning the creation of this world by God, concerning the Fall of man  and its terrible consequences,  and God’s  plan to recreate  this sad fallen world. Three  words summarize the message of the Bible : CREATION – DEGENERATION – RE-CREATION.  

According to the March 2007 edition of Time Magazine, the Bible "has done more to shape literature, history, entertainment, and culture than any book ever written. Its influence on world history is unparalleled, and shows no signs of abating."  With estimated total sales of over 5 billion copies, it is widely considered to be the most influential and best-selling book of all time. As of the 2000’s, it sells approximately 100 million copies annually.[1]  That is a pretty impressive statement from a secular news magazine.
But the Bible is not merely an influential book or a bestseller. It is not merely a Book among other books. The Bible is much more than that. It’s internal testimony claims a much bigger authority than that.  It claims to be the Word of God. Now that’s impressive! 

Here are a few samples…
·       Psalm 119 is one long statement about the weightiness of God’s Word
·       2 Timothy 3:16-17
·       2 Peter 1:20-21
·       1 Thessalonians 2:13

1 TIMOTHY 4:11-16

The weightiness of the Scriptures, is seen in our text. The Bible bears unique weight upon our lives. The Bible claims an absolute authority over our lives. It was written by men who spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. The Bible dispenses truth about God and about ourselves. The Bible was written to turn fallen mankind, the apex of God’s creation back to God. The Bible  requires  thorough going repentance  by embracing the Peace Offer  that God  has  given to  mankind: The Lamb of God  that  takes away  the sin of the world

It is this weightiness  that is on Paul’s mind  when he  instructs  the young pastor Timothy of the church in Ephesus, to make it  is main aim  to see that this Word from God gets out to the people. For this reason he should devote himself to the public reading of these Scriptures and to the exhortation of those Scriptures and to the teaching of those Scriptures (4:13). Pastor Timothy needed to make sure that his congregation was regularly and thoroughly brought under the sound of these Scriptures.

He was a gifted teacher/ preacher, recognised by the council of elders (4:14).He would be an antidote to the false teaching that was threatening to infect the church at all times. The Word of God needed to be read to the congregation, it needed to be explained to the congregation, and it needed to be impressed upon the congregation. The faithful teaching of the Word of God would save both Timothy and the congregation from error and establish them in the truth.  (4:16)

Working with the Word is a spiritual discipline.  We have previously seen  in 1 Timothy 4: 6-10  how  the apostle impresses  the importance  of  spiritual discipline upon Timothy, and thus upon the church which he was  leading, when  he said, “Timothy, exercise, exert discipline (Gr.gumnaze)- train yourself for godliness, for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is  of value in every way, as it holds  promise for the present  life and also for the  life to come…” [1 Tim. 4:7-10].

Paul, in this mentoring letter to Timothy has been guiding Timothy in a number of important matters.  One of the most important issues Paul addresses here is the matter of proclaiming and teaching Bible truth and Bible logic to the church. The reason for this is that false teachers, sent from Satan, were invading the church (1:3-20; 4:1-4; 6:3-5 cf. 2Tim. 2:16-18,23; 3:8; 4:3-4; 14-15).  This is a big problem  for the  church in our fallen world, and we must understand this.

Jesus tells us how this happened.  In the context of the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:1-23), Jesus also tells the parable of the weeds (Matt. 13:24-30). There He explains how a field sown with good seed is suddenly invaded by weeds. The explanation given is this, “An enemy has done this”. The enemy is clearly the evil one, Satan (Matt 13:19). Satan takes weak people captive to do his will. He uses them to undermine the pure Word of God. He still uses the same undermining tactics and subversive language which he used with Eve, “Did God actually say?...”(Gen. 3:1).  Paul writes to Timothy about the work of the devil through people [see 1 Tim.1:20 - Hymaneus and Alexander; 3:6-7 -  through immature people appointed to eldership; 4:1 -  through deceitful spirits and teaching of demons; 5:15 - vulnerable widows); 2Tim. 2:26 – people focussing on foolish, ignorant controversies, falling into the snare of the devil)] 
The life of the church is at stake when God’s truth is substituted by false teaching and false emphases (e.g. works as a system of salvation) doctrine.  The antidote to false teaching and false emphases is found the plain reading of Scripture, in the exhortation and teaching of the Scripture. This positive teaching emphasis is deeply embedded in Paul’s two letters to Timothy. [ See 1 Tim. 1:3,18; 3:1; 4:6,11-16; 5:1-16 (teaching all kinds of people);  5:17-20 (concerning the teaching office); 6:2;  2 Tim. 1:6,13, 2:14,24; 3:10,14-16; 4:2,17]

So then, in reading and studying the Bible ...
(i) we learn the truth about God and ourselves and thus  we  can find the wayback  home to God.  
(ii)  we can  escape false  demonic teachings that confuse the plain message of the  Bible. 

Godliness (i.e. having the sense of God in our souls) is directly proportional to Bible intake. 

If one trains for any sport discipline it is important to know the doctrine of that discipline. In the same way the Bible informs us in the discipline of godliness. We cannot grow and produce godly church members without learning the doctrines or the logic of Scripture, which is very often contrary to the sinful worldviews we embrace.  This discipline will be necessary as long as we live.   

APLICATION:  How We Can Hear God’s Word

1.    Attending a church where the Bible is faithfully proclaimed. In the act of hearing the Word we must take note of what Jesus said in Lk. 11:28. “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”  It is not enough to attend a Bible teaching church. Merely listening to sermons or Bible readings will not do it. The purpose of hearing the Bible is to lead us to obedience - at whatever level it speaks to us.  Hearing the Word read and preached is important. Faith is stirred up in the act of hearing.  Romans 10:17 says, So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ”. The Thessalonian congregation provides us with a good example  of a people that  took the Word of God  into their lives: “And we also thank God constantly  for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” (1 Thess.2:13)

2.    Reading God’s Word: Attending a church where God’s word is fully proclaimed is good, but there needs to be more Bible intake. This is done by disciplining ourselves to read the Bible – it is a part of what 1 Timothy 4:7 implies – disciplining ourselves for the purpose of godliness. Again, Revelation  1:3 tells us "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. " Learn to read the Bible for yourself.

Three practical suggestions for Discipline in Bible Reading[2]

·       A Time: If we do not plan to read the Bible it will not get done. The Bible, which has 66 books, and more than a thousand pages,  needs  time and effort to read. The best time to read is the time when you are most alert and undisturbed.
·      A Place: There is  an advantage  in reading the Bible day after day in a  place which is firmly associated in your mind with that activity.
·      A Method:  Never wait until you are in the mood to do it. Be determined, be intentional, be disciplined. The way to do a thing is to do it ! ( J.C.Ryle)[3]
Ø   A Bible Reading plan is supplied to our congregation today; also available in the tract stand.

3.    Bible Study

·        Personal in- depth Bible Study - This is more than Bible reading. It is getting to grips  with the depth of the Bible. Don’t let a feeling of inadequacy keep you from learning the Bible on your own. There are many wonderful resources available to help you. For this very reason we operate Barnabas book ministry.
·       Attend an in- depth Bible study of your church.


Godliness grows in proportion to your Bible intake. If we settle for poor intake of hearing, reading and studying, we restrict the main flow of God’s sanctifying grace to us.  May the Lord bless you and help you with good discipline in this regard.  

[2] For this purpose I highly recommend Geoff Thomas’  little book : Reading the Bible, Banner of Truth Publications
[3] Ibid , p. 14

Sunday, January 5, 2020

BEARING FRUIT IN 2020: 1 Timothy 4:7 - “Disciplining Ourselves For The Purpose Of Godliness”

In the course of the next four Sundays of January 2020, I intend to remind  us all concerning a number of important spiritual disciplines for the Christian life. 
Reminders are important. The apostle Peter wrote to the church, 
“Therefore I intend always to remind you  of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder…” [2 Pet.1:12,13]. 

The disciplines we intend to remind ourselves  of  anew  in the course of these next four weeks  are,

1. Disciplining ourselves for the purpose of godliness
2. The discipline of hearing God’s Word regularly
3. The discipline of Prayer
4. The discipline of Worship.

Many people, when thinking about discipline - any form of discipline - begin to look for excuses as to why they cannot do it. 
  • Some associate discipline with legalism - “I don’t want to be legalistic
  • Others say, “I am already too busy. I don’t have the time and energy to do this”
  • Still others say, “I don’t have the interest or inclination to do this”.

Think for instance about learning to play the guitar. You have seen a friend playing well, and you wished you could play like that.  To play that guitar however requires effort, time, and the will to do it. The more effort, time and will you put into practise, the better the guitar playing skills will become.  Nobody, not even a gifted person, becomes instantly successful at such a discipline. 
It needs constant practise.
The will or the motivation to do something is particularly important. Many people put in time and effort, but get no real joy out of this discipline. Many children learn the guitar or piano because it is their mother’s will, and not their own.  Personal resolve or will makes the difference in any discipline.    

Now let us apply this idea to our text. Paul addresses this matter  of spiritual discipline when he says to his younger fellow worker Timothy, at this time pastor of the church at Ephesus, “Timothy, exercise, exert discipline (gumnaze)- train yourself for godliness, for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is  of value in every way, as it holds  promise for the present  life and also for the  life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For  this end we toil and strive, because  we  have our hope set on the Living God, who is the Saviour of all people, especially those who believe …” [1 Tim. 4:7-10]

Paul, in this mentoring letter to Timothy has been guiding Timothy in a number of important matters. So far he has dealt  with the matter of dealing with false teachers in the church (1:3-20); about public prayer and propriety in public worship (2:1-15); about spiritual qualifications for  elders and deacons (3:1-13);  about  how to behave in church (3:15); about the reality of  apostasy from the faith (4:1-5), and now  concerning the  importance of spiritual discipline, both in  terms of the church and  in his own life (4:3-16).

The purpose of writing this letter is found in 1 Tim. 3:14: “… I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”

The things that Paul is writing about are things that Timothy must put before the brothers and sisters of the church (1 Tim 4:6).

The matter we want to pick up here is the matter of spiritual discipline - of training ourselves for godliness.  We know that we ought to put in effort, time and will, only to find that there is not enough motivation behind our efforts. Many Christian people really want to grow spiritually, but find themselves running out of steam, like the New Year’s resolutions that they have made, which are forgotten by February.

What do we need to persevere?  
What do we need to keep in mind? 
What will strengthen our will, our resolve, to be spiritually disciplined?

The answer is given in our text. “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, especially of those who believe…” (4:10). 
In Chapter 6:11-12 Paul amplifies this:  “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things (urgency). “Pursue (imperative) righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…”. He has just spoken about the poison of false teaching emphases (6:3-5) and the problem of discontentment and the evil of the love of money (6:6-10).


The main reason why we give up and do not pursue the discipline of godliness, is that we do not keep the end in view.  We run aimlessly.  We do not anticipate the finishing line. Paul frequently  uses the metaphors of  an athlete  who keeps  the end, the finishing line in view. [1] How much more must the Christian keep the  end in view … physical training is of some value  in this life, but training in godliness holds value beyond this life in the life to come.  Many people exercise their bodies to be fit and feel good in their bodies and minds. That is where it ends.  Training for godliness goes much further … it goes ahead beyond death! Now this should provide us  with  great  motivation  to study the  need for being godly. Think of the spiritual disciplines as ‘spiritual exercises’. Just as physical disciplines promote fitness and strength, so spiritual disciplines produce spiritual stamina and therefore godliness.
Jesus  makes  a statement  that we ought to take to heart in this regard, when He says, “Do not  lay up for yourself treasures on earth, where  moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matt, 6:19-21).   Keep the end in view. Labour to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. It has far more profit. That should motivate you.

Understand your own weaknesses. Paul reminds Timothy (who was prone to introspection and discouragement- 2 Tim. 1:7) to keep his focus on the end for which we toil and strive. The focus must be on our ultimate hope- God, and the eternal life to which we are called.  We need to constantly think about the real end of life-  not our pensionable age, but  our meeting of God and the reality of eternal life. We need to think about our life after death.  

We need to think about what we shall become.  Romans 8:29 teaches us that God has predestined us be conformed to the image of Christ, and He has designed for us to make effort to make sure that we reflect the godliness of Jesus. Effort or working out our faith is not contrary to the doctrines of grace which teach us that all our salvation is earned by Jesus. But it is also true that the  fruit of our repentance and faith in Jesus  lies in the fact that we work out our salvation with fear and trembling as God works in and through us (Phil. 2:12,13)

No one becomes a successful athlete without hard discipline. 
No one becomes a godly Christian without hard effort and discipline, and this discipline always  with the help of God. 

Holiness and godliness is not an option for  Christians. It is a calling.  Peter writes, "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1: 14-16

The Lord Jesus modelled these disciplines for us. He disciplined Himself for the purpose of godliness. And if we are going to be Christ-like, we must live as Jesus lived (1 Jn. 2:6)

Sadly, many professing Christians are spiritually undisciplined  and therefore  they show little fruit and power in their lives. Sadly, many Christians excel in their work /sport but not in their spiritual lives. They work hard at being successful in their  work/sport  disciplines but remain ‘spiritual dwarfs’. Their work discipline is not applied to  working on their spirituality. They  do not see the  value of training  for godliness, because they have not got the end goal in mind.
Some Christians are faithful to the church of God, and sometimes become quite enthusiastic for the things of God; they love the Word of God – but then they trivialize their effectiveness for the Kingdom of God through lack of discipline.

"The gold of godliness isn’t found on the surface of Christianity. It has to be dug from the depth with the tools of the disciplines“.

  • We are called to bear fruit (John 15). There is danger in neglecting the spiritual disciplines i.e. we bear little fruit. Just as with natural gifts, spiritual gifts need to be developed by discipline in order to bear spiritual fruit
  • There is freedom in embracing the Spiritual disciplines.  They may seem to be restrictive and binding, but they actually are the means to spiritual freedom. Freedom is not the opposite of discipline, but it is the final reward of discipline. Through the spiritual discipline of reading and meditating and memorizing of the Word of God we may find ourselves free to quote Scripture; through fasting we may experience greater understanding of issues that perplex or disturb us; we may find ourselves freed from bondages as a result. In the discipline of worship and attending services we may be freed from spiritual bondages.
  • Godliness does not come overnight or during a weekend seminar. It grows with persistent application. We must learn to persevere before the mature fruit of godliness ripens. Notice the sequence of development in 2 Peter 1:6f: “add… to self control, perseverance and to perseverance, godliness”. It is a process. It takes effort, time and will.

 May  this  meditation add to our understanding and resolution to be  fruitful Christians in 2020.

[1] The metaphor of running a race "with perseverance" appears in Hebrews 12:1, and related metaphors appear in Philippians 2:16, Galatians 2:2, Galatians 5:7. In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul writes "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." In 1 Corinthians 9:24–26, written to the city that hosted the Isthmian Games, the metaphor is extended from running to other games, such as boxing, to make the point that winning a prize requires discipline, self-control, and coordinated activity. In 2 Timothy 2:5 the same point is made.